It has long been held as a truism that physical activity is associated with improved overall healthy ageing. Previous studies have focused on the effects of mid-life physical activity on healthy ageing. However a new longitudinal study in the UK looked at the effects of taking up activity later in life. They examined the association between physical activity and healthy ageing over 8 years of follow-up.
In the study, there were 3454 initially disease-free men and women about 64 years of age from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, a prospective study of community dwelling older adults. The participants self-reported initial physical activity levels and through follow-up. Healthy ageing was assessed at 8 years of follow-up and was defined as those participants who survived without developing major chronic disease, depressive symptoms, physical or cognitive impairment.
It was found that roughly 20% of participants were found as health ageing. Moderate to vigorous activity at least once per week was the major factor in their successful healthy ageing. The results from the study show that becoming or remaining active was associated with healthy ageing compared to the inactive group.
It is significant that those who starting exercising late were three to four times more likely to age healthily compared to the inactive group. Those who continued being physically active were seven times more likely. Wow!
The study is very timely as you review 2013 and start looking towards 2014. On a personal level, the main ingredient to healthy ageing is being moderately to vigorously active at least once per week. So perhaps you can resolve to start exercising in 2014.
But the question is what exercise to engage in. My recommendation is to do yoga. Yoga is the type of exercise that enhances your flexibility, strength and endurance while being kind to your joints. Yoga begins at whatever level of fitness you are at and builds from there. In addition, it is the type of exercise that can be done at any time of day or any where you are. It does not require large investments in equipment or space.
Starting in 2014 you can begin with one 30 minute session per week. As your fitness increases, you can increase the frequency until you reach five sessions per week. At that level you will have reached the 150 minutes of activity per week as recommended by the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology.
There are two conclusions from the study. Firstly, that sustained physical activity in older age is associated with improved overall health. And significant health benefits are seen among those who become physically active relatively late in life. Start your 2014 with this new hope.